Mamoudou Athie is set to play opposite Brie Larson in her directorial debut, Unicorn Store. He also can be seen in the recurring role of Grandmaster Flash in “The Get Down,” a Netflix series created by Baz Luhrmann.
Mamoudou recently starred opposite Stockard Channing in “Me & Mean Margaret,” a pilot for an NBC sitcom. On the big screen, he appeared alongside Emma Watson and Tom Hanks in The Circle, a suspense thriller based on Dave Eggers’ novel of the same name.
Mamoudou received critical acclaim for his stage debut at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater opposite Diane Lane and Tony Shalhoub in The Mystery of Love and Sex. Here, the graduate of the Yale School of Drama discusses his new film, Patti Cake$, an overcoming-the-odds saga revolving around a Rubenesque, white rapper’s (Danielle Macdonald) quest for superstardom.
Kam Williams: Hi Mamoudou, thanks for the interview.
Mamoudou Athie: Thank you, Kam.
KW: What interested you in Patti Cake$?
MA: In a nutshell, the script, the director and the character, particularly meeting Geremy [writer/director Geremy Jasper]. I had a sense he was going to make something special. I initially had reservations about my character, Basterd, but I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. And the script is one of a kind, yet also familiar in a personal way. Had me laughing aloud as well.
KW: How would you describe the film in 25 words or less?
MA: It’s a glorious underdog story with wit, charm, and verve about the illest rapper in Dirty Jerz [aka New Jersey], KIlla P [played by Danielle Macdonald] with no holds barred stunts, high octane high speed car chases, and superheroes galore. And we have 300 million Instagram and Twitter followers.
KW: How did you approach playing Basterd? Did you base him on anybody?
MA: Not on any one particular person. I took something of a dim sum approach to him. He’s a mix of some people I grew up around, Geremy’s thoughts and influences, for sure, and Mickey Theis, a classmate of mine from YSD [Yale School of Drama]. He’s one of the most beautifully sensitive actors I’ve ever worked with.
KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
MA: Go mother-[bleep]-ing hard!
KW: Were you surprised by the performance of your co-star, Danielle Madonald?
MA: Nah, I knew she’d totally slay it after I heard her first track. But when I heard that first track, yes — I was surprised. That was amazing!
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
MA: May’ve been “Stunt Queen” by Bloc Party or Arcade Fire’s “Infinite Content.”
KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
MA: I don’t know . It’s kind of a medley, but what sticks out the most is going to the park and zoo with my family and my holographic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle TV. It was half an inch and actually for my action figures, but I loved it more.
KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?
MA: My family.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
MA: Eggs… I’m lazy..
KW: The Morris Chestnut question: Was there any particular moment in your childhood that inspired you to become the person you are today?
MA: Again, I’m not sure if there was one particular moment, but I’m almost positive my parents have never lied while I’ve been alive. So they certainly set the bar for morals. I’ve lied though. Sorry, Moppa.
KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you’ve learned so far?
MA: Hmm… I can’t say it’s THE most important as it’s hard to rate these things, but certainly being honest is a good way to sleep well at night. Learned that verrrrrry early. [Chuckles]
KW: What was your very first job?
MA: Cutting grass. I worked at the National Shrine in DC for a spell in 10th grade.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
MA: Depends on the day!
KW: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
MA: Sorry, I didn’t hear that question. Next!
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
MA: Instant worldwide utopia.
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
MA: Excess napping and snacking. Shame.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
MA: [LOL] No. That’s funny to imagine, though. I’m thinking of a person in an interview wondering, “I wish they’d ask me about this!” while quietly fuming internally.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?
MA: No! There are so many stories that have yet to be told. New content! Infinite content!
KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
MA: The usual.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Mamoudou, and best of luck with Patti Cake$.
MA: Thank you so much, Kam.
To see a trailer for Patti Cake$, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-591Dqa48g